20. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books

Sinner (Shiver Trilogy Companion) by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Kira, on 10/19/2014

Sinner?  well I usually think of someone much worse than Cole’s character.  It seems something of a boast to label oneself as a sinner with his few “crimes”.  I wish I found out more about Sam and Grace – I don’t really care that much for Cole and Isabel, they are Not as interesting as Sam and Grace, but perhaps their story has played out, maybe it really played out at the end of v1 of the  Trilogy.  Isabel became less and less likeable, really annoying as if parents getting a divorce entitles her to be bitchy and mean.  And I guess Cole’s great self-doubts justify him falling in love with such a mean person.    Much more romance, much less action. Trite.  But if we categorize this as a romance, then it is a much better romance than the majority of romance type novels I’ve come in contact with.

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Poor Rump. His mother died before giving him his full name. He has always been stuck with half a name and no destiny. He lives with his grandma in The Village on the Mountain. The villagers look for gold in the mines to send to the King (King Barf!). All of their rations come through the fat, greedy miller Oswald. This is a land where names have power, magic exists and pixies and gnomes are everywhere. Rump discovers his mother’s old spinning wheel and discovers he can spin straw into gold. The magic comes at a price and soon he finds himself in the power of the miller. When the king comes looking for the new gold, the miller claims his daughter spun it knowing that Rump would help her. Rump goes to the Kingdom and does help Opal, but at a huge cost. Because of the magic Rump can not give the gold away, he has to receive something for it. He is unable to bargain, he must accept any trade offered to him. When Opal offers her first born child Rump despairs, but he has to accept. He runs away to Yonder to find his mother’s family and to hopefully break the bargain. Alas, it is not to be. Rump has to find his true name in order to overcome the magical curse and be free.

I love fractured fairy tales. There is just something so enchanting about taking a story we all know and turning it on its head. The tales of Rumpelstiltskin are really not that detailed in explaining why things happen. Liesl Shurtliff simply fills in Rump’s backstory for us. She explains his actions and those of the other characters in the story. The miller becomes the true villain in this tale and Rump is simply a boy who has to find his destiny. I loved all the fantastical characters like the pixies, who are attracted to gold, the gnomes, who are messengers, and the trolls who don’t eat people! I thought this was a thoroughly creative and imaginative story and I loved it.

11. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Ashara is a place ruled by magic. The powerful kasiri wield the magic and have all the power. The magicless halani are relegated to subservient positions and living in slums. Marah Levi is a 14 year old halani girl who dreams of a better life. She wants to study music in secondary school, but she also has a passion for books and languages. It is through her love of obscure languages that she meets Azariah a kasiri boy who also enjoys languages. Together they start exploring ancient books in a forgotten language. All the while a plague starts ravaging their city. The plague turns people’s eyes black and kills them. So far no cure has been found and the powerful kasiri government doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. Marah and Azariah stumble upon the cure and the cause of the plague in the book they are studying. Together they set out to create the cure and save those they love.

This is an interesting book. Because it is set in another land with magic it is able to make quite a few comments on racism and elitist governments. It is pretty heavy stuff for a middle grade book. The kasiri are the minority in Ashara, but wield all the power over the halani. Anytime the halani try to stand up for themselves they are labeled subversive and either killed or sent to prison. It is very reminiscent of some places and periods of history in our own world. I enjoyed the story and the quest Marah and Azariah take in order to figure out the cure for the black eyes plague but at times I felt the story almost took a backseat to the political/social commentary. I am sure a lot of that message will go over the heads of the intended readers so I wish the story would have been just a bit stronger.

09. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, read by Kira, on 10/03/2014

emp imagesssThis was a delightful, enjoyable read.  It is the tale of an old jinni, released from his flask after 1000’s of years imprisonment.  He is released by a tinsmith in New York at the turn of the century in New York.  At the same time, a golem created to be the wife of a ship passenger who dies en route to New York, struggles to pass as human in New York in a nearby neighborhood.   I really enjoyed this tale of historical fiction with a touch of magic.  You get a lot of backstory on several of the characters.  I heartily recommend this title. golemandjinni_pbk  772720 istock_000009314476small.jpg NOL-Read-Sliders-The-Golem-and-the-Jinniimages

08. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Magician's Boy by Susan Cooper , read by Lisa, on 10/07/2014

Only a child can find the way to bring Saint George back to the play.

The Boy works for the Magician, and he wants more than anything to learn magic. But the Magician always says, “Not yet, Boy. Not till the time is right.” So the Boy has to be content with polishing the Magician’s wand, taking care of the rabbits the Magician pulls out of hats, and doing his favorite job: operating the puppets for the play Saint George and the Dragon, which the Magician always performs as part of his act.

Until one day the Saint George puppet disappears, and the angry Magician hurls the Boy into the strange Land of Story to find Saint George. His quest is full of adventures with oddly familiar people, from the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe to the Giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk. But the Boy’s last adventure is the most amazing of all — and changes his life forever.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Sabriel by Garth Nix, read by Courtney, on 09/07/2014

Sabriel has been living on the safe side of the wall, far from the flowing free magic and the undead denizens of the Old Kingdom, for many years. She’s in training to be a mage and her mettle is about to be tested. Sabriel’s father, Abhorsen, has gone missing. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t worry Sabriel too much, but her father sent her his bells and sword. Which means he’s either dead or trapped in the underworld. Which means there’s now nothing preventing the dead from rising back up and wreaking havoc on both sides of the wall. Sabriel at once decides she needs to go and find her father, which means not only crossing the wall, but facing some of the biggest undead threats she’s ever encountered. Armed with her father’s bandolier of bells, each of which holds its own type of power, and her wits, Sabriel heads off into the unknown. She’s eventually joined by a cat-like creature, Mogget, and a young man she’s recently freed from the mast of a long-docked ship.

I’m a big fan of the Abhorsen trilogy, but there’s naturally a soft spot in my heart for Sabriel. Nix does a fantastic job with his world-building. The magic in this trilogy is one that must be learned and directed. Sabriel is clever and self-possessed, in spite of her absentee father and her longing to be on the other side of the wall where she was born. Her bitterness turns to determination as she navigates the river of the underworld and the dangers of the Old Kingdom. Sabriel is a richly imagined and original fantasy suitable for a wide audience.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E.D. Baker, read by Angie, on 10/02/2014

Cory hates being a tooth fairy. She isn’t very good at it and doesn’t enjoy it, but her mom is a tooth fairy and convinced her it was the career for her. When she quits her mom is furious as is the Tooth Fairy Guild. Cory just wants to help people and wants to find a career that will let her do that. She starts taking odd jobs like babysitting (for Humpty Dumpty and the old lady who lived in a shoe), mowing yards (for the three little pigs of course) and doing inventory (for the lady selling seashells on the seashore). She also starts setting up her friends on dates trying to find them the perfect match. The Tooth Fairy Guild does not take quitters lightly and starts a campaign of harassment that follows Cory wherever she goes. They send rain and gnats and crabs and the big bad wolf. None of it convinces Cory that she should go back to being a tooth fairy. As the harassment escalates so does her determination to find something truly helpful to do.

I had high hopes for this book as I really enjoy fractured fairy tales, but this book was a bit of a disappointment. I liked the fact that we got to see such a nice mixture of fairy tale characters, but I wanted more of a story. The story itself seems very disjointed with Cory moving from one odd job with a fairy tale character to another. The only truly cohesive thing seems to be the harassment by the TFG, but even that seems a bit extreme. I liked the ending and how Cory’s matchmaking desires finally makes sense but I also thought it was a bit rushed. There was a lot of story about Cory babysitting and such but very little about what happens when she finds her true calling.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/26/2014

Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.

Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.

It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/23/2014

Dear Reader,

I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, THE MISERABLE MILL might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, and they find disaster and misfortune lurking behind every log.

The pages of this book, I’m sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons.

I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven’t, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming, please feel free to make another selection.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/22/2014

Dear Reader,

If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted, but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and this one may be the worst of them all.If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair.I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/21/2014

As Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire travel along Lousy Lane toward their new home, they fear the worst. It’s true that Violet Baudelaire has escaped some close calls before. For a fourteen-year-old, she has an extraordinary talent for inventing things. And her brother, Klaus, is also well equipped for emergencies. He has read a great deal and possesses just the sort of knowledge that can get them out of a tight spot. Their younger sister, Sunny, is also helpful in a jam. Though she is only an infant, she has four very sharp teeth, and she likes to bite things. Still, even though the Baudelaires have great talent among them, they can’t help but worry about what sort of guardian their strange Uncle Montgomery Montgomery will be. After all, these siblings are extremely unlucky and they had best be on their guard. Certainly, they will need all of their abilities if they should find themselves faced with a dreadful series of unfortunate events.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/20/2014

It’s a good thing that Violet Baudelaire has a real knack for inventing things. When misery comes to call, the right invention at the right time can mean everything. It’s also fortunate that her brother, Klaus, has read lots of books and knows many important things, like how to tell an alligator from a crocodile and who killed Julius Caesar. When everything that can possibly go wrong does, a small fact can be vital. It’s lucky, too, that Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest sibling, likes to bite things. Even though she is an infant, and scarcely larger than a boot, she has four very big and sharp teeth. When trouble comes along, sharp teeth can save the day. But most of all, it is good fortune that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are as sturdy and resilient as they are, for ahead of these three children lies a seemingly infinite series of unfortunate events.

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Swap by Megan Shull, read by Lisa, on 10/01/2014

“YOU BE ME…AND I’LL BE YOU.”

ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.

Then, BAM! They swap lives—and bodies!

Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties while Ellie’s reigning as the Prince of Thatcher Middle School. As their crazy weekend races on—and their feelings for each other grow—Ellie and Jack begin to realize that maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being someone else.

01. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove, read by Angie, on 09/30/2014

At some point in our future the Great Distortion takes place and the world is unstuck from time. What does this mean? It means that different eras/time periods co-exist throughout the world. You have the Prehistoric Snows in Canada, Late Patagonia in South America, the 40th Age in the Philippines area and here in the United States you have New Occident in the east and the Baldlands in the west. Some areas are so disrupted they are closed, but many others are open to exploration and trade. Sophia lives with her uncle in Boston in New Occident. Her parents were explorers who disappeared when she was three. Uncle Shadrack is one of the foremost cartologers (mapmakers) in the world and is teaching her about maps. Then Shadrack is kidnapped and leaves a message for Sohpia to find Veressa. She teams up with Theo and heads off to the Baldlands. Turns out Shadrack was kidnapped by the mysterious Blanca and her Sandmen. She wants Shadrack to help her find the carta mayor, the water map of the world, and revise it so the world is whole again. Everyone meets up in the Baldland capital of Nochtland, but there they discover that the world is not static like they thought. A glacier age is making its way north and wiping out every other age it crosses. Sophia, Theo, Shadrack and the friends they have made have to figure out how to stop it and stop Blanca.

So if the description confuses you, you are not alone. This is a very complex story that while fascinating requires a suspension of belief to enjoy. The description of the world is amazing, but it really doesn’t answer a lot of questions. For instance, no one knows what age the great disruption occurred in; however, there are ages from the distant past and the distant future. How can there be an age from a future after the great disruption if the great disruption occurs? Why are some ages closed and others open? Why can you travel and trade among some but have no idea what is going on in others? If this is earth, why are there people with feathers or metal bones? How can ages move and expand? It kind of makes your head hurt when you think about it. I think one of my biggest headaches was the language. There are lots of made up words that are like our words but not. Things like Baldlands (which I always read as Badlands) and cartologer (which I read as cartographer). It made a confusing story even more confusing. There is also the issue of the maps. Seems in this world you can make way more than paper maps. There are water maps, glass maps, cloth maps, metal maps and these maps contain not just geographical features but memories from people. No explanation on how these maps were created or how people learned to make them. Of course there was no explanation on the carta mayor and how and why it was created either.

Then you have the book itself. It is rather long and the age it is aimed at is questionable. It is complicated and has some nasty bits (torture and such) which seem to point towards a more teen reader, but the main character is obviously young and there is no romance between Sophia and Theo which points toward a more middle grade reader. I’m not really sure who I would recommend this book to. Of course there is the story itself which got even more far-fetched the longer it went along while at the same time remaining completely predictable. That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book or enjoy it. I couldn’t put it down and really wanted to know how everything ended up. I was disappointed by the ending and still very confused when I finished.

23. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fantasy, Fiction, Multicultural Fiction

The Mirror or Fire and Dreaming by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, read by Eric, on 09/02/2014

The continuing adventures of Anand, and his companion, Nisha, following the events in The Conch Bearer. Both children live and train with the Brotherhood of the Conch, in the Silver Valley within the Himalayas. While practicing his far-seeing ability, Anand discovers a wise-woman desperately in need of help for her village. Coming to her aid thrusts Anand, Nisha, and Master Abhaydatta into the past, and into a confrontation with a powerful sorcerer.

What may sound like a typical fantasy plot is much more in execution. The author weaves just the right mix of history and mysticism, and maintains complex and lovable characters with ease. Possibly the best character of all is the Conch itself, the power of which is matched by its humor and love. This is a wonderful followup to The Conch Bearer.

23. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Quirks in Circus Quirkus by Erin Soderberg, Kelly Light (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 09/22/2014

The Quirks are not your normal family. Mrs. Quirk can influence your thinking by looking you in the eye. Grandpa can skip time. Grandma is a tiny little fairy. Young Finn is invisible unless he has gum in his mouth. Penelope can make things just by thinking of them. Only Molly is normal though she is immune to everyone else’s quirks. The Quirks have only been in Normal a short time and hope to not move again any time soon (they always have to move when their quirks cause too much commotion). However, their neighbor Mrs. DeVille is snooping around and the Quirks are afraid she is going to cause trouble for them. They are also enjoying the fact that they are getting circus lessons at school and may get to perform in front of the entire town. The Quirks are fun and quirky and they don’t want anyone to find out how unique they are. I thought this was a fun book with a lot of character. The Quirks are entertaining and unusual. I didn’t realize this was the second book in the series, but I don’t think it detracted from the story. I think kids will enjoy this unique series.

19. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror

Fat & Bones: And Other Stories by Larissa Theule, read by Angie, on 09/17/2014

Mr. Bald, the farmer, dies and his son Bones is finally free to go after Fat, the fairy in the tree. Mrs. Bald can’t stop crying over her husband’s death. Fat and Bones have been enemies for a long time though it is not explained what made them such. Fat makes a potion for Bones’s pig foot stew and unfortunately Mrs. Bald eats it instead causing her to go flat. Bones tries to cut down Fat’s tree and instead cuts off the cat’s tail. There are other stories interspersed in the Fat and Bones tales. A pig loses her last foot to the pig foot stew. A spider loses some blood to one of Fat’s potions. It is a gruesome little collection of stories that I am sure will find fans among those kids who like horror.

15. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser , read by Angie, on 09/14/2014

Lug isn’t like the other caveboys in his village. He doesn’t care about headstone or getting the biggest jungle llama. He really likes spending time in his art cave and drawing pictures on the cave walls. He is also concerned about the fact that it is getting colder. He is banished from the village along with Stony, a boy more interested in his frog than anything else. He meets Echo, a girl from the rival village who wants him to help her with Wooly, a young mammoth. Wooly and Lug train to be the best headstone pair so they can get back in the village. Unfortunately, the cold has sent more than mammoths south. A group of saber-tooth tigers is also on the prowl and wants to take over the village’s caves. The two villages have to work together to survive.

This was a fun book, a bit silly perhaps, but with a nice message about accepting people’s differences and not having to conform. It was a bit different to read a book about cavepeople where they spoke in modern language for the most part. It makes it more relatable for young readers anyway. I thought the story was fine, but did think it was strange when the fantasy element of talking animals was introduced. I wish that element could have been left out, but with it in I wish it would have been used consistently. In the beginning Lug and Echo are special because they can understand animals, but by the end the animals are talking to everyone.

15. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

Visions by Kelley Armstrong , read by Angie, on 09/14/2014

Book 2 of the Cainsville series. So in the first one Olivia finds out she is adopted and her real parents are the serial killers Todd and Pamela Larsen. She escapes Chicago and the media frenzy and hides away in Cainsville. There she hooks up with Pamela’s lawyer Gabriel Walsh and starts investigating the killings her parents are convicted of. Crazy things happen. Book 2 picks up after the events of book 1. Olivia and Gabriel have proven that Todd and Pamela didn’t kill one of the couples, but there are still three more to investigate. This book takes a bit of a break from the Larsen case and focuses more on other concerns, mainly what the heck is Cainsville.

Olivia finds a body in her car that mysteriously disappears before anyone else sees it. She then discovers the body’s head in her bed, which also disappears. Someone is clearly messing with her. Turns out the body belongs to a young who also has Cainsville connections. Olivia and Gabriel set out to figure out what those connections are and why someone is targeting Olivia. In the mean time, Olivia has tried to reconcile with former fiance James Morgan, but decided it wasn’t going to work out. He is not taking it well and will not leave her or Gabriel alone. Olivia has moved on to hot, young thing Ricky Gallagher, heir to the biker gang Satan’s Saints. They are hot and heavy whenever and wherever they can. Of course Gabriel doesn’t approve even though he and Olivia are not like that (anyone can see it is heading that way of course). Things get complicated as they figure out more about Cainsville’s secrets and what those secrets have to do with Olivia and Gabriel.

I like the fact that this series is not dragging out the mystery. We learned a lot about Cainsville in this book; definitely not all the secrets but enough to know a little about what is going on. I am a big fan of stories about the fae so this book is really up my alley. I like all the hints throughout which made me get online and look up the words in a Welsh dictionary so I could figure out what they heck they were talking about. It seems there are factions who want Olivia’s particular skill set of seeing omens and visions. Will she go with the elders of Cainsville or the sexy Wild Hunt or with the mysterious Tristan and his unknown faction? Can’t wait to see where this book goes.

12. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tammy

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett, read by Tammy, on 09/03/2014

raising steamA thoroughly enjoyable visit to Ankh-Morpork. This time the steam engine has been discovered. An engineer creates the first train and it soon expands beyond his dream to railways being built out to far-lying areas and other countries involving the Watch, the patrician, the press, Henry King as the financial backer and Moist Von Lipwig trying to organize and facilitate it all while not getting killed by angry dwarfs, scoundrels in the desert, rogue goblins or the first steam engine itself, Iron Girder.

Can be a stand alone story though I think readers of earlier Disc-world novels will enjoy it more as they will know the background stories of many of the characters and how they have interacted in past stories.